In an industry dominated by budgets in the millions, or even hundreds of millions, how can an independent filmmaker get their vision to market? YouTube, VIMEO, luck? The festival circuit? Making a movie is expensive, so how does a rising artist find enough financial support to break into the business of film?
Film Market Access Inc.
Kirk Cooper of Film Market Access Inc. (FMA) runs a series of market readiness programs designed to help aspiring filmmakers navigate several of the most important film festivals around the world. Cooper’s experience at the festivals and his ability to bring in relevant speakers creates a shortcut to understanding the ins and outs of the business of film.
I recently had the opportunity to sit in on Cooper’s boot camp for Fantasia Festival. For those of you not into genre film, Fantasia and its Frontières Co-Production Market are likely the most influential genre film festival initiatives going today. Lucky for me, I sat in on the right day. I had the chance to listen to a lecture from Colin Geddes, the former programmer for Midnight Madness at The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
Sitting with Cooper and Geddes provided a treasure trove of advice from industry stalwarts that any aspiring writer, producer, or director would benefit from.
How Films Are Sold
Without giving too much away, the primary take away from the boot camp was learning how films are funded and sold at a micro level. Cooper’s goal has always been to make sure that emerging filmmakers arrive at these massive international festivals ready to do business.
You need to arrive at these festivals ready to do business
The gold in these boot camps is the guidance from Cooper himself.
Over and over, Cooper and Geddes gave examples focussing on how important it is to understand if your project even has a market. And, if does have a market, how it could be sold to the widest possible audience. After all, nobody is going to fund or produce a project that has little likelihood of ever making it to screen or video-on-demand.
If You’re Going to Go All The Way to Cannes, At Least Know What to Ask For
Almost of equal importance, Cooper and Geddes impressed upon their protégés that they need to know what they are looking to get out of any given festival. Going hat in hand to Cannes, TIFF, or Fantasia is likely going to get you nothing. There are far too many filmmakers looking to sell their visions. To be more specific, there are far too many GOOD filmmakers looking to sell their visions. If you know what you’re looking for, if you can talk intelligently about tax credits, about streaming platforms, distribution deals, and sales agents, you are more likely to attract partners in finance that will buy into your vision. Going to meet with a government representative at TIFF about Canadian tax credits would be useful. But, asking a distributor about tax credits reveals your ignorance of the very business you’re looking to break into.
Akash Sherman, the director of Clara and listed as “one to watch” by Movie Maker, passed through Cooper’s Cannes program before going on to his recent success at TIFF. Sherman thanked Cooper for helping at Cannes:
I wasn’t just wandering about at Cannes, Kirk made it a learning experience.
All too often artists forget the business side of the filmmaking process. With access to a team like Cooper and Geddes early in their career, artists can certainly get a jump start in turning their vision into a marketable finished product.
Take a moment to look at the FMA website to look through their upcoming programs for both Cannes and Frontières Market 2020.
Have you struggled to enter the commercial film market? What part of the process has been the toughest?
Lead Muybridge image from the Public Domain. Other images provided by FMA.